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McHale ‘disappointed’ with Mayo exit


NEW ROLE Fiona McHale is pictured in action for Carnacon. Pic: Sportsfile


Ger Flanagan

IN many ways she’s broken down a barrier before a football is even kicked, but now Fiona McHale is hoping she can break the mould in coaching circles with her new role as coach of the Claremorris mens’ senior football team.
Last November, the All Star ladies midfielder was approached by Claremorris team manager, Niall Heffernan, who asked if she would be interested in coaching the South Mayo club’s senior team alongside Norman O’Brien.
Although McHale admits that she had her initial apprehensions, it was also an offer, she knew, that doesn’t come around too often.
“It’s something different, and something I thought about when I was growing up,” the 31 year-old told The Mayo News. “I thought, ‘Jeez, would I ever get the chance to be involved in a mens’ team? And now that it’s happening, I’m very excited about it.
“Initially when Niall [Heffernan] rang me I said, ‘No way, not a chance’. But he told me to go away and think about it, and I knew getting off the phone that I really wanted to do it.
“I felt it was an opportunity I couldn’t say no to because they don’t come around too often for females.”
McHale had previously coached the University of Limerick’s O’Connor Cup team from 2012-2015, and brings a wealth of experience from her career playing at the top level with both the Mayo ladies and her club, Carnacon.
After working with Niall Heffernan during the Mayo ladies’ run to the 2017 All-Ireland Final, McHale clearly left a lasting impression. And she’s fulsome in her praise for Heffernan ‘thinking outside the box’.
“I think it’s up to people to give women these opportunities and Niall Heffernan thought outside the box when he got on to me,” she said.
“I haven’t asked him why he actually thought of me to take on this role, but he was thinking outside the box. Hopefully when others are looking for people to take on these coaching roles, they might do the same.
“You’re always going to look for the best person for the role, in the mens’ and ladies’ game, gender really shouldn’t come into it,” she added. “But because this is not the norm at the moment, people are looking and wondering how it’s going to go.”
Currently studying for a PHD in Physical Activity and Health from the University of Limerick, McHale has been impressed by the application of the Claremorris players during their first few on-field sessions.
After stepping away from the Mayo ladies panel last year, she’s keen to fill that void and feels coaching Claremorris is the perfect tonic for that.
“This opportunity would not have come around only for I’m not playing with Mayo,” she admitted. “I have that little bit of extra time on my hands now and I get a great buzz out of coaching. The energies you would have used with Mayo were astronomical so you have to fill that void.
“I thought if I take it on I might encourage more females to take them on, or encourage management teams or club executives to consider females. The more people who start taking it on, the more it becomes the norm.
“There are some great female coaches out there in the womens’ game and a lot of retired players who are being considered for roles in the womens’ game and that’s becoming bigger now.
“In the mens’ game it’s not as common, they are few and far between. So I did feel that duty.”

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